If you’re in the modeling world, then chances are you know the name Erin Scimeca. She’s the scouting director of New York Model Management and she brings 20 years of experience to the table. For our latest installment of the Secrets of Scouting, we sat down with Erin — and the legendary Marion Smith, VP of NY Models — to talk about where she scouts, what she’s looking for and what it’s really like to be in her shoes.
theFashionSpot: Have you always wanted to be a model scout?
Erin Scimeca: No! Since the time I was 10 years old, I wanted to be an interior designer.
Marion Smith: And she still does!
tFS: How did you get into the business?
ES: When I was in college, I had a friend whose family owned a bridal salon. We did some modeling for her and met different people in the business. We happened to be very lucky to meet this woman who lived down the street. She just started at Elite Model Management for Elite Model Look and they were doing a big tour in America. The year was 1995. She was organizing the tour and we helped her at her home office. By the end of the summer, she was promoted to run the whole division and asked me if I wanted to take over her job. I was 21 and just graduated college, so I said, “Sure, why not!”
tFS: What did your family think?
ES: My mother said, “See you in two weeks!” Because I never left home. Twenty years later, I’m still here.
tFS: What’s a typical day like for you?
ES: That’s one of the great things about being a model scout is that you don’t have a typical day. As the scout director, you’re the first person who meets these girls. You become their mom, their big sister, their comfort when they’re homesick. There are days when I’m talking with my girls and socializing, and there are days when I’m answering my emails all day or getting my visas ready.
tFS: We imagine it’s not a nine-to-five job.
ES: No! At Elite in the 90s, model scouts were working all the time. You were taking girls out to parties and making sure they’re seen at the right places. Marion and I are still old school. We answer our phones at all hours and we’re emailing on the weekends. We’re dealing with people, so we have to always be there for them.
tFS: How has model scouting changed since you started in the 90s?
ES: People know the industry more now that they have access to the Internet, whereas before you knew Elite and Ford Models and that’s where it stopped. It’s made everyone more educated, but it’s also turned around people’s social skills. It’s very hard for them to be present with people when they’re always on their phone. It’s the same with the new agents coming up. They’re not used to calling. So, they try to communicate a lot through email. We’ve lost the personal touch that used to be so prevalent in the business, but we’ve gained convenience.
tFS: What are the cardinal virtues of a model scout?
ES: You have to love to travel. You have to love people, and be able to have a conversation. One reason why we’re so good at bringing girls into the agency is because I make sure to get to know the girls and engage them. You also really have to be up for adventure and change at any time. Being a model scout is different than being a booker because we’re not dealing with clients, we’re dealing with models. So, you need to be comforting and warm.
tFS: The industry is surprisingly small. Are you competitive with other scouts?
ES: That’s another change in the business. I used to be on the road all the time with the scouts in my generation. We were always doing events together and going to modeling conventions, which they don’t really have anymore. We were all friends. And it wasn’t unusual to get a call from one of the other scouts saying, “Hey, I just saw one of your girls, she was doing such and such.” Now, it’s different. There are not as many events, and people are a little more competitive with each other.
tFS: How often do you travel now?
ES: Every couple months, if not a little more. You have to be ready to travel at a moment’s notice.
tFS: Where do you like to scout?
ES: Do we give out our secrets? Honestly, we scout everywhere. We’re lucky to have a recognizable name, so people come to us as well. I always believe that the best girls are the ones who don’t think about modeling. They’re the girls you bump into at the grocery store or a movie theater.